Coronavirus LIVE BLOG: April 23 to May 6
Photo courtesy of the CDC.

    Catch up on our current Coronavirus LIVE BLOG here.

    7 p.m. May 6: How is San Jose doing with COVID-19 outreach?

    The city of San Jose is asking for feedback on its public outreach amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We are committed to providing you with timely, accurate information as we seek to save lives and livelihoods in our response to COVID-19,” a city news release said. “We want to know how you think we are doing from a communications and public outreach standpoint.”

    Complete the survey here.

    3:30 p.m. May 6: Property tax relief in California

    Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday waiving penalties on property taxes paid late for California residences and small businesses through May 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The state now allows residents and business owners to pay property taxes due April 10 and not face the 10% penalty and other fines. In order to qualify for this year-long relief, property owners must prove to county tax collectors they suffered economic hardship or couldn’t make tax payments on time because of the pandemic or ensuing government responses. Additionally, certain businesses also have slightly more than three weeks to file business personal property statements through May 31 to avoid penalties.

    “Many people (are) just struggling to make ends meet,” Newsom said in his daily briefing, “and those property tax bills are so large for people — and so challenging in this time — that we wanted to provide this clarity.”

    On April 21, Santa Clara County supervisors waived penalties on property taxes paid late and the $20 fee that kicks in after the deadline. Under state law, counties can forego penalties for circumstances beyond taxpayers’ control.

    The waivers come after the U.S. Department of Treasury delayed Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. But property taxes, which are used for schools and local governments, can’t be delayed, according to a memo from the California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors.

    Read Newsom’s order here.

    1:50 p.m. May 6: Gov. Newsom expands workers’ compensation eligibility for Californians

    In announcing an executive order Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom moved to expand workers’ compensation eligibility for Californians who contract COVID-19 in the workplace — including health care workers and first responders initially left out of federal relief.

    The governor said the relief is meant to ensure people who get sick aren’t forced to go to work and risk spreading the coronavirus disease to others. Workers who get the novel coronavirus are now eligible for benefits that can only be rebutted by employers under strict criteria.

    “This is a way of providing support to our critical workers that are essential in our capacity not only to meet the needs of people today, but as we begin to enter into this new phase and start to reopen our economy,” Newsom said in his daily briefing.

    On April 16, Newsom granted two weeks of paid sick leave to large-scale food sector workers. Federal coronavirus relief had expanded benefits to smaller businesses, though left out large industries and many essential workers, the governor added.

    “Workplace health and safety is public health and safety,” said Victoria Hassid, chief deputy director of the state Department of Industrial Relations. “This benefit applies to all workers, all of those front-line workers that are risking their health and safety to ensure the health and production of all of us.”

    If workers test positive or are diagnosed and found to have COVID-19 within 14 days of having reported to work anytime between March 19 and July 5, it’s presumed the employee contracted the virus at work and they can receive medical coverage and other benefits through workers’ comp, Hassid said. Criteria under the order also allow employers to present evidence in the event that a worker doesn’t have COVID-19, or they didn’t get it at work.

    Read the full order here. More guidance is expected in the coming days, officials added.

    12:40 p.m. May 6: Statewide website to find testing sites, Gov. Newsom says

    The state of California launched a new webpage to find a COVID-19 testing site for residents, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in his briefing Wednesday.

    The online portal allows Californians to input their ZIP code to find test sites near them and make reservations to get tested. Although Newsom said residents should have a testing site within 30 to 60 minutes from them, he acknowledged “testing deserts” still exist for many Californians.

    “Again, we still have an enormous amount of work to do,” Newsom said. “This site will expose that, but in a very transparent way. We’ve been very forthright in our recognition that we need to spread out our testing capacity and also deepen it in certain communities.”

    Per the state COVID-19 main website, testing will be prioritized to people hospitalized, symptomatic essential workers, symptomatic seniors and people in high-risk, congregate settings.

    Already, partnerships the state forged with Alphabet-owned Verily’s Project Baseline and federal service provider OptumServe have opened test sites in underserved rural and urban communities, including East San Jose. However, Newsom clarified the new state webpage does not include hospital testing sites.

    Daily testing, Newsom added, has increased from 2,000 tests in early April to roughly 30,000 last week. In total, more than 800,000 tests have been conducted, and the state’s roadmap to recovery calls for increased testing as the economy reopens.

    11:54 a.m. May 6: Happy Hollow cancels events for seniors, Beer at the Zoo

    Already closed until further notice, Happy Hollow Zoo announced it canceled its free safari series for seniors, as well as a beer walk, a city of San Jose news release said Wednesday.

    The free Senior Safari series for older adults from May through October was canceled, as was the Beer at the Zoo scheduled for June 19. Refunds for the latter event will be issued. Email [email protected] for questions.

    During the closure, Happy Hollow still has staff caring for the animals. Visit the city’s Virtual Recreation Center for a virtual meet and greet with animals at the zoo.

    11:05 a.m. May 6: San Jose extends local emergency declaration

    During its meeting Tuesday, the San Jose City Council extended its local emergency proclamation because of community spread of COVID-19, as San José Spotlight reported.

    The action extends the emergency services director’s March 6 proclamation up to an additional 60 days. As a prerequisite for federal and state assistance amid the pandemic, the proclamation also allows city officials to exercise extraordinary powers, including for police evacuations.

    The city’s emergency proclamation must be reviewed by council every 60 days and must end “as soon as conditions warrant,” a staff report said. City officials worry coronavirus cases and deaths will “likely increase” once the shelter-in-place order lifts and expect the emergency to continue until a vaccine is developed, which isn’t projected for a year and a half.

    10:45 a.m. May 6: National Nurses Day, contact tracing in Santa Clara County

    On National Nurses Day Wednesday, Santa Clara County officials outlined how public health nurses are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and previewed contact tracing for expected case increases as the shelter-in-place order become less restrictive.

    County public health nurses were among the first to respond to the outbreak locally, by identifying at-risk populations of recent travelers before officials realized the novel coronavirus was already in the community, with the nation’s first known death in Santa Clara County on Feb. 6.

    “The whole world was fighting the same battle,” Public Health Nurse Melissa Schilling said in a county briefing. “As cases started to come in, it became apparent that there wasn’t always travel history at all, and that the virus had community spread. So we transitioned to more of a mitigation phase, where we weren’t able to call everyone everyday.”

    More than 80 public health nurses in Santa Clara County now work on provider intake related to issues with COVID-19-positive patients, special investigations in congregate settings where physical distancing may be difficult, specimen collections of nasal swabs and contact tracing to identify people who may have been exposed to the virus from a positive patient.

    Contact tracing, county health spokeswoman Evelyn Ho added, is being prioritized to scale capacity with more public agency staff and community partners as COVID-19 cases rise. In California’s roadmap to recovery, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state, in partnership with UC San Francisco and UC Los Angeles, plans to train 20,000 people in two months for contact tracing, with the first training on Wednesday.

    “For any easing of the shelter-in-place order to occur, we expect that cases will increase when that happens,” Ho said. “In order to break chains of transmission — to interrupt those chains so that transmission doesn’t become exponential and overrun our health care system and lead to eventual significant amounts of death — we have to have a robust contact tracing and case investigation unit.”

    3 p.m. May 5: CA well-positioned after Trump says not to bail out poorly run states, Newsom says

    After President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday not to bail out poorly run states amid the COVID-19 pandemic and threatened using sanctuary laws as a bargaining chip for relief, Gov. Gavin Newsom said California is “well-positioned” for federal relief despite recent projected budget deficits.

    “Well run States should not be bailing out poorly run States, using CoronaVirus as the excuse!” Trump said on Twitter. “The elimination of Sanctuary Cities, Payroll Taxes, and perhaps Capital Gains Taxes, must be put on the table. Also lawsuit indemnification & business deductions for restaurants & ent.”

    Until recently, California paid more in taxes to the federal government than it received back, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and just weeks prior had a budget surplus. The novel coronavirus pandemic, however, has caused a projected $35 billion budget deficit that must be sorted by mid-June, when the state Legislature must legally have a balanced budget or not get paid.

    Newsom said the state’s record paying off debt and creating a surplus would fit within Trump’s tweet.

    “If that’s the case, California will be well-positioned in any subsequent coronavirus relief,” the Democratic governor told reporters. “In fact, I imagine we would be front and center in that consideration, considering the magnitude of those surpluses, considering the management of our budget, and considering the magnitude of this virus and its impact on our general fund.”

    While saying the issue of sanctuary laws that limit cooperation with federal immigration laws is a policy difference, Newsom added Trump ally and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani once supported sanctuary policies, corroborated by CNN. California’s sanctuary state law limits has been challenged in court by the Trump administration.

    “That’s a separate issue and well-defined in California,” Newsom said. “It’s one of the many lawsuits that we’re engaged in with the administration. So good people can disagree on that.”

    1:30 p.m. May 5: State Attorney General, large cities sue Uber, Lyft

    California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco filed a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft Tuesday, alleging the Bay Area ride-share companies illegally classified drivers as independent contractors so they wouldn’t receive workplace protections.

    With Gov. Gavin Newsom saying Tuesday more than 4 million Californians have filed for unemployment and $10.1 billion in unemployment insurance has been distributed since March 15, the Attorney General’s office said in a news release that the vulnerability of companies’ drivers has become more apparent during the COVID-19 crisis.

    “Sometimes it takes a pandemic to shake us into realizing what that really means and who suffers the consequences,” Becerra said in a statement. “Uber and Lyft drivers who contract the coronavirus or lose their job quickly realize what they’re missing. But it’s not just these workers who lose. American taxpayers end up having to help carry the load that Uber and Lyft don’t want to accept.”

    The lawsuit — filed in the San Francisco Superior Court — requests compensation for workers, halting worker misclassification and civil penalties.

    Under Assembly Bill 5 and the Unfair Competition Law, state and local officials argue Uber and Lyft deprived workers of the right to minimum wage and overtime, paid sick leave, disability insurance and unemployment insurance, according to the Attorney General’s office. The state’s AB 5 law, which took effect in January and challenged by both companies, codifies a 2018 court ruling determining whether workers can be legally classified as contractors if work is under the worker’s control and not of the business, isn’t part of the company’s core business, and is part of the worker’s independent profession, per a University of California, Berkeley analysis.

    Because Uber and Lyft allegedly misclassified drivers as contractors, prosecutors also say the companies avoided paying hundreds of millions in social safety net obligations and skipped out on contributing to state payroll taxes meant to fund health and welfare programs. The lawsuit seeks $2,500 for each violation of the Unfair Competition Law and an additional $2,500 for violations perpetrated against senior citizens or people with disabilities.

    According to Tech Crunch, Lyft said in a statement that it looks forward to working with the state and cities to “bring all the benefits of California’s innovation economy to as many workers as possible, especially during this time when the creation of good jobs with access to affordable healthcare and other benefits is more important now than ever.” However, an Uber spokesperson told Tech Crunch the company would fight the lawsuit.

    Read the complaint here.

    1:30 p.m. May 4: Some retail to could open this week

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that the state’s stay-at-home order would be modified this week to allow some retailers to reopen — but only if they follow certain restrictions and “modifications” to their operations, and only for curbside pick-up.

    Logistics and manufacturing companies that support the retailers will also be allowed to begin operating.

    “The modifications, the adaptations need to be in place before we can move into that second phase, but it can begin as early as the end of this week,” Newsom said, issuing a directive to retailers hoping to reopen this week to ready their shops based on the state’s safety and distancing rules.

    The retailers that will be allowed to reopen as early as Friday include:

    • Clothing stores
    • Florists
    • Bookstores
    • Sporting goods stores
    • Music stores

    Non-essential office workplaces will be required to stay closed, and restaurants won’t be allowed to reopen seated dining areas. Shopping malls will remain shuttered under the newest state guidance.

    But the announcement Monday marks a big step for the state, Newsom said, as California moves into the beginning of “stage two” of reopening the economy and amenities for residents.

    Still, there will be some regional variations, both Newsom and Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health said Monday.

    Counties where local health officials and elected leaders agree that even more loosening of the stay-home order can be done safely can “self-certify” as long as those leaders have certain virus testing, tracing and tracking protocol in place. Likewise, some counties may opt to take things more slowly, based on local health data.

    Last week, Bay Area health officials lifted some restrictions on the regional shelter-in-place order, whcih in many ways has been more restrictive than the state’s order. While some industries are allowed to reopen in the revised Bay Area order, it does not lift as many restrictions on retailers as the state’s announcement Monday.

    1:20 p.m. May 4: Three free test sites in Santa Clara County — two in East San Jose

    Santa Clara County residents will have three free COVID-19 testing sites — with two in East San Jose — as part of an effort to increase testing for underserved communities.

    “Testing is one of the most important tools we have to protect our community from COVID-19,” county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a statement. “These test sites are a welcome addition to testing capacity in our county. It is especially important to make testing readily available in communities that may have limited access. Our ultimate goal is that anyone, living in any neighborhood, can get access to testing, particularly those with symptoms of COVID-19, and those who work in settings where they may have frequent exposure.”

    Opened Monday, the east side San Jose Police Activities League Stadium drive-thru site is available weekdays by appointment only and is overseen by Alphabet-owned Verily’s Baseline program, city officials said.

    With existing testing at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, the Baseline program aims to expand access to screening and testing in areas with high volumes of known cases, while enabling public health officials to target testing. However, it will be limited to high-risk populations 18 years or older, such as frontline workers and people with possible symptoms of the novel coronavirus, in compliance with California Department of Public Health guidance.

    Meanwhile, Santa Clara County officials announced appointment-only testing at James Lick High School in East San Jose and Christopher High School in Gilroy would begin this week. Residents must meet screening and testing criteria based on state guidance.

    Through a partnership with federal health service provider OptumServe and the state, the two county locations are part of 80 COVID-19 testing sites across California in underserved communities that can add daily testing capacity by more than 10,500 tests. The county sites will be open weekdays and each can serve 132 people daily, officials said.

    For PAL Stadium testing, complete the online screening for symptoms and, if eligible, make an appointment through the scheduling system in English or Spanish. Both sites are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with pedestrian access and signage in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

    To schedule an appointment at the two county sites, call 888-634-1123 or visit here. Testing at Lick and Christopher schools will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m on weekdays.

    12:30 p.m. May 4: California Assembly reconvenes after close to two months

    State Assemblymembers reconvened in Sacramento Monday after close to two months of recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Amid the crisis, legislators must work on a slew of bills, including those related to California’s projected $35 billion budget deficit because of the crisis, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

    State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, jointly suspended hearings in March and again in April until May. While the Assembly reconvened Monday, the Senate plans to return in a week. An Assembly budget subcommittee also met Monday morning to discuss health care workers and social safety net programs during the pandemic, and the Transportation Committee was scheduled to meet in the afternoon.

    “My Assembly colleagues & I are returning to Sacramento today to continue our work helping CA respond to & recover from #COVID19,” East Bay Democrat Rob Bonta tweeted. “We’ll be taking many safety precautions like remote testimony in committee hearings to protect the public & our #caleg staff.”

    10:50 a.m. May 4: Free drive-thru testing launched in East San Jose

    Santa Clara County residents can now get tested for COVID-19 at a free drive-thru site in East San Jose, with priority for high-risk populations such as first responders or health care workers, as well as people with possible symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease.

    Through a collaboration with Alphabet-owned Verily’s Baseline COVID-19 program, the testing site will be available weekdays by appointment only at the San Jose Police Activities League Stadium, located at 680 S. 34th St., starting Monday, a city news release announced. In addition to the new site, residents can also get tested at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose. Both are part of a partnership between Verily and the state of California.

    “This partnership with Verily critically boosts the diagnostic testing we need to dramatically increase to safely reopen our economy,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement.

    The Baseline program is an effort to expand access to COVID-19 screening and testing in areas with high volumes of known cases, while enabling public health officials to target testing efforts. Health insurance is not required to be screened and tested, and medical care is not provided on-site. Officials added the sites have capacity to test hundreds per day, with people able to access the site on foot.

    With city staff assisting directing vehicles at the PAL Stadium site, signage in English, Spanish and Vietnamese will guide customers.

    Eligibility for testing is defined by the state Department of Public Health and may change due to latest health guidance. Asymptomatic frontline workers who may been exposed to the virus are eligible for testing. Additionally, priority will be given to people with fever, cough or shortness of breath, which could be symptoms of COVID-19. Those eligible must be 18 or older.

    Complete the online screening for symptoms and, if eligible, make an appointment through the scheduling system in English or Spanish. Both sites are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    3:50 p.m. May 2: VTA requires face coverings for passengers

    Beginning Monday, transit riders and personnel will be required to wear face coverings to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

    VTA officials said the move is part of the county’s extended shelter-in-place order, which peeled back restrictions on some industries but will keep most businesses shuttered and residents indoors through May 31.

    “That means anyone boarding VTA vehicles will have to comply by donning a face covering and continue to adhere to social distancing requirements to the greatest extent feasible,” VTA officials said in an email. “Bus and light rail operators will also be wearing face coverings while in their vehicles.”

    The transit authority is getting the word out about the new requirements through posters and recorded messages on its vehicles. VTA has also implemented new cleaning and sanitation measures to help curb the contagious coronavirus.

    VTA joins the San Jose airport in requiring face coverings for passengers starting Monday. See below for that information.

    11 a.m. May 2: Relief fund for Silicon Valley artists

    San Jose nonprofit SVCREATES has established a relief fund for local arts organizations and artists amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Beginning in March, cancellations and closures mounted for the local arts sector. “Without emergency financial assistance, many of our arts organizations may not survive this crisis, and the livelihoods and services provided to employees, artists, students, and the wider community will be in jeopardy,” SVCREATES said.

    The fund provides immediate relief for artists and arts organizations in SVCREATES’ grant portfolio. Aid will help arts organizations maintain operations, pay artists, retain staff and continue engagement through the public health crisis.

    As of April 30, SVCREATES has distributed nearly $200,000 to more than 100 artists, the nonprofit said. Organizers aim to raise more than $2 million. With seed funding from the Castellano Family Foundation and the Morgan Family Foundation, Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, challenged the community to match the county’s $650,000 investment in SVCREATES through hotel taxes.

    Donations to the fund can be made directly to SVCREATES. Up to $5,000 can be submitted online here. Contact [email protected] to receive direct electronic transfer information to donate more than $5,000.

    6:05 p.m. May 1: San Jose lifts single-use bag charge

    San Jose has suspended its single-use carry out bag ordinance until June 21 so stores don’t have to charge a minimum of 10 cents for bags at check-out, a news release announced Friday.

    City officials said the suspension of the law aligns with Santa Clara County health orders that prohibit customers from bringing in their own bags to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s April 22 order suspending a statewide single-use bag charge for 60 days.

    “The goal of this temporary suspension is to release retailers in San Jose from the requirement to charge customers for bags while customers are barred from bringing reusable bags into stores,” a city news release said.

    5:45 p.m. May 1: San Jose airport to require face coverings

    Starting Monday, Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) will require personnel and travelers to wear face coverings inside buildings, a news release announced Friday.

    “Our top priority is protecting the health and safety of SJC employees and travelers,” Aviation Director John Aitken said in a statement. “Requiring face coverings is the latest measure in our on-going commitment to maintain a healthy, safe and clean environment now and when non-essential travel resumes in the future.”

    Per the airport, acceptable face coverings include scarves; bandanas neck gaiters; homemade coverings using a T-shirts, sweatshirt or towel fastened with rubber bands or other fasteners; or a non-medical grade mask. However, the airport’s requirement exempts children 6 years old or younger, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to otherwise remove their face covering without assistance, and people who have been advised by a medical professional not to wear a face covering.

    Along with Santa Clara County’s existing protocols for physical distancing and frequent hand-washing, the airport said it plans to display signage throughout terminals and all entry points to remind of the new face coverings requirement.

    As essential infrastructure, the airport remains open for essential travel only under the county’s shelter-in-place order. Aitken added airlines serving SJC have also announced they will require face coverings.

    Visit SJC’s website for latest updates. Read San Jose Spotlight’s story on making your own face covering.

    1:10 p.m. May 1: Gov. Newsom previews modifying California’s stay at home order

    Amid mounting protests against California’s stay-at-home order intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom previewed modifications Friday that he said would provide large sectoral and regional changes in loosening restrictions as early as next week.

    On Friday, protestors gathered en masse in Huntington Beach and outside the State Capitol, while Modoc County — bordering Oregon and a county with no reported cases — lifted its shelter-in-place order.

    Newsom’s announcement came as deaths surpassed 2,000 and more than 50,000 people have tested positive in the state. However, there was no increase intensive care cases, with declines in hospitalizations, and declines in people under investigation who were hospitalized or in ICUs, which the governor said are positive indicators to reopen the economy.

    “We’re getting very close to make really meaningful augmentations to that stay-at-home order,” he said. Departing from saying “weeks, not months” of loosening restrictions, he added the state is “many days, not weeks, as long as we continue to be prudent and thoughtful in certain modifications we will be making.”

    Newsom said hospitality and retail sectors can expect “serious modifications” soon. On Thursday, he unveiled guidance under the stay-home order for faith-based services, car sales, bike stores and outdoor activities such as golf, tennis and soccer.

    The governor acknowledged differences between rural and urban counties, and plans to work with the California League of Cities and California State Association of Counties.

    “We’re not turning our back to those concerns,” Newsom said. “We recognize the economic pain. We recognize how that manifests in health issues as well.”

    10:55 a.m. May 1: New shelter in place order goes in effect Monday

    Although Santa Clara County issued a new shelter in place order with loosened restrictions, it won’t take effect until Monday, so activities like tennis and golf will have to wait through the weekend, County Counsel James Williams said in a briefing Friday.

    The revised order, announced by county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody on Wednesday, gradually eases rules for construction, outdoor businesses like nurseries and landscaping, certain recreational activities and childcare through May. But shelter in place still remains the general rule during the pandemic.

    “We have it because this is the tool we have available to deal with the spread of COVID-19,” Williams said, “given that there isn’t widespread immunity, given that there isn’t a vaccine, and given that there isn’t pharmaceutical treatment.”

    On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued additional guidance for California’s stay at home order for outdoor activities. Whichever law is more strict takes precedence, though, according to Williams.

    But as the county begins reopening, Williams pointed to the warning signs of the 1918 flu pandemic in moving too fast. When governments like San Francisco lifted public health restrictions after only a few weeks then, there was a spike of cases and deaths, as NBC News reported.

    “We’re really trying to learn the lessons from history,” Williams said.

    Read more about how the new order works on San José Spotlight.

    9:50 a.m. May 1: San Jose mayor starts updates with food distribution, budget deficit

    In his first weekday update Thursday, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo outlined food distribution across Santa Clara County as well as significant budget deficits for the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Amid historic numbers of Americans out of work and unable to pay for rent or food, city officials have managed the Silicon Valley Strong initiative’s 126 food distribution centers around the county alongside community partners such as Second Harvest Food Bank and the Health Trust. Just last week, 2.5 million meals were distributed to county residents, according to Liccardo. To find a food distribution center, visit the Silicon Valley Strong website.

    In the fiscal year ending June 30, the city of San Jose is facing a $45 million deficit, though the mayor said City Council used reserves from its rainy day fund to supplement setbacks.

    However, Liccardo projected next year’s deficit is even larger. The next six to eight weeks, he said, “will involve some significant cuts to critical services.” In turn, the city will look at ways to soften the effects to city workers and residents, which could include online permitting, for example. Liccardo encouraged residents to provide feedback to better allocate funding, including his proposed budget.

    “We know there are tough times ahead, but we’ve got this, together,” Liccardo said.

    The mayor’s daily six-minute-or-less briefings will occur around 6 p.m. on his Facebook page.

    6:15 p.m. April 30: San Jose library staff sew hundreds of face coverings to donate

    With the goal of donating at least 600 cloth face coverings, 53 San Jose Public Library staff and two volunteers have sewn 320 face coverings, a city news release said Thursday.

    Recently, library staff donated their first batch of 100 coverings to HomeFirst staff at the Bascom Overnight Warming Center. The news release said more library-made face coverings will be donated to Friends of the Library in San Jose, library volunteers over the age of 45, those who have volunteered with the library for over five years and local vulnerable populations. To ensure people follow the shelter in place order, library staff will deliver the face coverings, which are made at the Berryessa Branch Library using the library’s sewing machines.

    The San Jose Public Library is making coverings designed by Kaiser Permanente, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Valley Medical Foundation. To make your own mask, read more here.

    5:45 p.m. April 30: Get married online in California

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an order Thursday allowing couples to obtain marriage licenses through videoconference amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The order cites the difficulty the virus and public health measures such as physical distancing have made to appear in-person for legal obligations generally required for marriages.

    Under the 60-day order, adults can obtain a marriage license — at a local county clerk’s discretion — through videoconference, as long as both are located in California, are present and can provide identification during the online ceremony, Newsom’s office said in a news release. Licenses can then be issued via email.

    Additionally, couples can conduct a ceremony to solemnize the marriage via videoconference, as long as both people are present, and they have at least one witness who can join the live videoconference. Neither the person solemnizing the marriage nor any witnesses have to be in California during the ceremony, per the order. Friends and family can virtually attend the wedding, too.

    1:25 p.m. April 30: California launches child care facility navigator

    Families can now navigate child care facilities across the state through a portal launched Thursday by the California Department of Social Services.

    With Gov. Gavin Newsom saying the new website took years of planning, it allows parents to search for facilities by zip code, with information about location, health and safety, ages of children served, capacity and hours.

    “We know that child care keeps California working,” Social Services Director Kim Johnson said in Newsom’s briefing Thursday. “It also provides that critical enrichment and activity for supporting the healthy development of children.”

    Still, Newsom noted many licensed child care facilities have closed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and certain areas had limited access to child care already. Johnson said 432 pop-up child care centers have opened across the state because of COVID-19 response.

    The state allocated $50 million in child care vouchers for 20,000 essential workers and vulnerable populations, as well as $50 million in facility sanitation. Newsom added Congress also provided $350 million from its bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill for child care.

    To reduce the spread of COVID-19, Johnson also said her department has implemented public health guidelines for child care programs, including smaller group sizes, extending outdoor activities, visual cues for physical distancing, frequent hand-washing with learning counting and songs, as well as modifying pickups and drop offs for families.

    “Child care is essential,” Newsom went on. “We need to provide that support. Again, child care becomes even more important as we begin to modify the stay at home in the state of California.”

    12:44 p.m. April 30: Despite reports, only Orange County beaches to close in California

    Despite reports saying California beaches and state parks would close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday only Orange County beaches would close.

    During his briefing Thursday, Newsom said the images of crowds at Southern California beaches Saturday, mostly in Ventura and Orange counties, were “disturbing.” Meanwhile, he issued new guidance on outdoor activities like tennis, golf and hiking, including for approximately 200 state parks that remain open.

    “Specific issues on some of those beaches have raised alarm bells,” he said of Orange County. “People that were congregating there that weren’t practicing physical distancing.”

    The closures apply to state and local beaches in the Southern California county, which came as California saw 95 deaths in the last 24 hours Thursday — one of the state’s highest daily death counts.

    Still, the California Police Chiefs Association had reportedly issued a statewide memo saying Newsom would close all beaches and state parks. “Bottom line, that was their memo, but that memo never got to me,” Newsom responded in his briefing.

    10:45 a.m. April 30: Report: Gov. Newsom to close all California beaches and state parks

    After beachgoers crowded Southern California coastlines Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom will reportedly close all beaches and state parks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a memo distributed Wednesday to police chiefs across the state.

    The Fox 11 Los Angeles news station originally posted the memo by the California Police Chiefs Association, which the Associated Press later confirmed with the association.

    During his daily briefing Monday, Newsom said the images of crowds at beaches in Ventura and Orange counties were examples of “what not to do if we’re going to make the meaningful progress that we’ve made in the last few weeks extend into the next number of weeks.”

    Newsom has laid out plans to slowly reopen California’s economy with loosened public health measures intended to slow the spread of the virus. On Wednesday, the Bay Area, including Santa Clara County, issued a revised shelter in place order that allowed certain businesses to reopen under restricted criteria.

    “The only thing that will set us back is our behavior,” the governor said.

    Newsom’s Thursday briefing is scheduled for 12 p.m. Watch it here.

    10:25 a.m. April 30: U.S. Census virtual event in Vietnamese

    U.S. Census officials are scheduled to join San Jose-based Radio Tiếng Nước Tôi in a virtual discussion Friday about the 2020 census. The event will be in Vietnamese and is sponsored by the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and the U.S. Census Bureau.

    “Getting counted in the 2020 Census means money for our communities for critical programs that support housing, education, health, nutrition and emergency preparedness,” a city news release said Thursday.

    Complete the census questionnaire online or call 844-330-2020. Officials reminded residents to include everyone living in their home, including babies, roommates and friends. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share individual census responses with others, including federal, state and local agencies, law enforcement or landlords, city officials added.

    Radio Tiếng Nước Tôi’s discussion takes place at 11 a.m. Friday on its website or the TNT radio app.

    10:10 a.m. April 30: Sharing stories of hope with San Jose

    San Jose officials are asking residents to share acts of kindness, generosity or creativity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “The City of San José would like to share these stories on our social media channels to lift up our residents during this difficult time,” a city news release said Thursday.

    If you have experienced or seen an inspiring story or moment — no matter how big or small — share it with the city’s communications team at [email protected].

    7:30 p.m. April 29: California’s first partner to host storytime on Facebook

    Jennifer Siebel Newsom, first partner to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, is scheduled to host storytime Thursday morning in a Facebook livestream.

    As part of Día de Libros — a national library event meant to foster multicultural literacy — she will read “We Count,” a children’s book by Lisa Bernstein about the importance of getting counted in the 2020 Census, in English and Spanish, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

    “As we shelter safely at home, I hope families across California will join me virtually to share in the joy of reading, and to connect with one another while we are physically apart,” Siebel Newsom said in a statement.

    The reading will be held 10-10:30 a.m. Thursday and will be broadcast on the First 5 Association of California Facebook page. Viewers can RSVP and access the reading here.

    6:30 p.m. April 29: Lyft ends San Jose scooter operations

    Lyft moved to end its San Jose scooter operations Wednesday amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

    In a tweet, City Councilmember Lan Diep said Lyft will remove scooters from its app immediately and retrieve devices over the next day.

    “Yet another example of how covid-19 is dismantling our economy (and) how far (we’ll) have to go to get back to where we once were,” he tweeted.

    A Lyft spokesperson confirmed Diep’s tweet in an email.

    “We’re shifting resources and have made the tough decision to end scooter operations today, April 29,” a statement said. “We continue to support riders’ essential travel needs during this time with other modes of reliable transportation.”

    Besides its scooters, the San Francisco-based company said no other operations are ending in San Jose. Residents can use Bay Wheels, a regional bikeshare system by Lyft that has recently provided free 30-day memberships to Bay Area health care workers. Meanwhile, scooter riders have been offered a $50 credit for the bikeshare, and low-income riders through Lyft’s Community Pass can sign up for Bay Wheels’ low-income membership program.

    The move comes as Lyft announced Wednesday it would lay off 982 employees, or 17% of its workforce, because of the pandemic, per a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Lyft estimated it would incur approximately $28 to $36 million in restructuring charges because of the layoffs. Lyft also intended to furlough 288 employees, along with temporary pay reductions for certain employees — including executives and vice presidents — and reduced compensations for the company’s board of directors.

    1:20 p.m. April 29: California farmers, ranchers partner with food banks

    With plummeting reductions in demand for California growers and ranchers, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday a partnership to bring commodities to overburdened food banks during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

    As the nation’s largest agricultural producer, California agriculture has seen a 50% decline in demand, resulting in an abundance of unused goods, while food banks saw a 73% spike in need, according to the governor during his briefing.

    “Here we are the breadbasket of the world, California, and we want to address that mismatch,” he said. “We want to address the supply and demand.”

    California Agriculture Sec. Karen Ross said half of food dollars are spent in the service arena, which has backed up product getting to people amid restaurant closures. But an existing program under the California Association of Food Banks has allowed surplus produce grown to distribute to food banks, which will now be expanded amid the pandemic.

    Currently, Newsom said 128 growers and ranchers have signed on to provide goods to 41 food banks across the state, but Ross identified more than 200 additional farmers to participate in the new state, federal and philanthropic partnership. The new initiative will provide tax credits to farmers in order to also pay farmworkers, the governor added.

    With $3.6 million to expand the program, California will work to provide 21 million pounds of food and produce on a monthly basis and fund it the rest of the year.

    “Because of this jumpstart, we believe it will substantially and significantly expand in real time,” Newsom went on. “I’m confident that will take shape to the benefit to hundreds of thousands of families all up and down the state will have these quality opportunities to get America’s finest produce.”

    11:50 a.m. April 29: County unveils new stay-home order

    Santa Clara County officials on Wednesday released details of a revised shelter in place order, which will go into effect on May 4.

    The new order generally keeps in place most of the restrictions that have governed how residents live and work in the county since mid-March. But it loosens restrictions on a few industries that were previously shuttered due to the region-wide restrictive order, which was issued to slow the spread of the contagious coronavirus.

    “The new order that will take effect next week is designed to preserve the progress that we’ve made to continue to prevent a surge in cases,” Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s top health official, said Wednesday during a news conference. “And to gradually ease restrictions, allowing for a few additional businesses and activities to take place.”

    Many of the restrictions on construction jobs that have been in place throughout April will be lifted. Now, any construction work that would be allowed to continue under the state’s less restrictive stay at home order will be allowed to resume in the Bay Area starting next week.

    The easing of restrictions for the Bay Area’s construction industry come after local union leaders lobbied county officials to allow construction workers to return to work. It’s a move supported by Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who urged public health officials to peel back the restrictions on construction.

    “Before coronavirus entered our community, we were, and still are, facing a housing crisis,” Cortese said in a statement Wednesday. “We cannot pull back from our commitment to build housing when workers can do it safely, maintain physical distance and wear face coverings. The process I led is one that can be duplicated in any part of the country and was guided by science.”

    In addition to construction, child care, summer camps and other recreational activity for kids can resume, if certain safety protocols are implemented.

    Outdoor businesses, like nurseries, landscaping and agriculture will be allowed to open back up with new social distancing protocol that generally allows workers and customers to stay at least six feet apart.

    Real estate transactions that were previously on hold can resume, but with new restrictions to prevent the unintended spread of the virus during showings and on-site visits.

    Read the full county order here.

    10:45 a.m. April 29: Shower, laundry services around the Bay Area

    Dignity on Wheels offers shower and laundry services around the Bay Area on a first-come basis, city officials said Wednesday in a news release. People can take a seven-minute shower in a private shower room. They can also wash up to two sets of clothing, but not shoes, sleeping bags or heavy items.

    View the nonprofit’s service schedule on Google Calendar.

    9:20 a.m. April 29: CalFresh benefits can be used online

    More than 4 million Californians who use CalFresh food assistance each month can now buy food online through Amazon and Walmart, state officials announced in a news release Tuesday.

    “This new functionality will help ensure that Californians, particularly those that are most vulnerable and with the most need, have access to healthy food while staying home and staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kim Johnson, director of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), in a statement.

    CalFresh recipients receive aid through Electronic Benefit Cards cards — ranging $16 to $194 monthly per person — based on need to get food. Recently, the federal government approved a CDSS waiver to allow Electronic Benefit Transfer card holders to purchase goods online, provided recipients only work with existing approved retailers, Amazon and Walmart, according to CDSS.

    Additionally, the state launched specific pandemic EBT benefits for eligible students and families to get extra food amid school closures. The aid allows families to receive up to $365 in total benefits per child, which can be used on food and groceries.

    Families with children currently enrolled in CalFresh, Medi-Cal or foster care do not need to be apply and should receive a pandemic EBT card in the mail. For those not receiving benefits, they must apply online beginning in late May or before June 30. The COVID-19 benefits will be issued retroactively, regardless of when families applied, officials said.

    To apply for CalFresh, visit its website, call 877-847-3663 or go to your local county social services office.

    2:45 p.m. April 28: California schools could start up in late summer

    As state officials start making plan to reopen certain “non-essential” businesses around California, they’re also thinking about how fast they can get children back into the classroom — albeit with some new physical distancing requirements.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday suggested schools in California could restart as early as late July or early August, rather than the typical September start date. Though that hasn’t been set in stone, the discussions happening now to bump up the school year is a response to the children who may be falling behind while learning from home.

    “There’s been a learning loss and you can either just roll over and just accept that, or you can do something about that,” Newsom said. “If we could maybe start up the school year a little earlier that could maybe help mind that gap a little bit, close that gap a little bit, but it’s a deep concern.”

    2:15 p.m. April 28: State officials unveil plan to roll back stay-home restrictions

    Californians are “weeks, not months” away from seeing some loosening of the state’s stay at home order, Gov. Gavin Newsom and California health officials said on Tuesday.

    Certain retailers, including those that can offer curbside pickup, manufacturers, offices where working from home isn’t possible, and some public spaces will be among the next businesses and amenities to open, likely in May, though state officials didn’t specify a specific date that the restrictions would loosen. That’s all part of California’s second “stage” in undoing the restrictive stay-home order issued in mid-March, which shuttered non-essential businesses and kept residents inside except for specific tasks.

    The next stage of the state’s plan would open up more retail, service and commercial businesses, including hair and nail salons, gyms, movie theaters and it would allow sports teams to play without live audiences. in-person religious services, including weddings, would resume during “stage three,” though that’s months away, Newsom said.

    California’s fourth and final stage to getting back to “normal” would come once the population can gather and interact freely, which means finding a way to ensure herd immunity or when a vaccine is available, according to Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health. Then, concerts, convention centers and sports games with in-person fans in stadiums can open back up.

    State officials are asking those with expertise in how businesses can implement safe practices to open back up to customers to share feedback.

    “If you’re somebody who has particular insight, if you are a business person yourself, you are going to be invited to provide information … we want to hear from you because ideas you have about how you can create safe work places are ideas that we want to know about,” Angell said.

    That input can be provided to the state through an online survey.

    State officials are working on determining when California is ready to loosen restrictions on the statewide stay-home order.

    11:25 a.m. April 28: San Jose officials call for support fighting domestic violence

    Ahead of San Jose City Council’s vote Tuesday to fund law enforcement training to further address sexual assault and domestic violence, officials joined service providers calling for continued support of victims during the COVID-19 pandemic and after, as budget shortfalls are expected after the crisis.

    The Tuesday morning Zoom call — led by councilmembers Sylvia Arenas, Magdalena Carrasco and Maya Esparza — outlined concerns of initial decreased calls for domestic violence, which officials attributed to shelter in place orders that often put victims in close proximity with assailants.

    “Now more than ever, this work is so critical to our community because with the added impacts of these shelter in place orders, these communities are pushed in even more unbearable conditions,” Esparza said, adding her district south of downtown already has overcrowded housing. “Frankly I fear for the safety of our families here in San Jose.”

    Domestic violence has been historically underreported, which Police Chief Eddie Garcia noted. It’s estimated one in four women and a tenth of all men will experience intimate partner violence. But the early onset of the pandemic dramatically reduced figures, though providers say they have started to see increases in calls and messages to crisis centers.

    Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, executive director of Next Door Solutions, said her organization initially saw a 38% drop in calls to its domestic violence crisis center, but numbers have begun to return. Tanis Crosby, who heads the YWCA of Silicon Valley, said added stress and social isolation increase domestic violence, a determination also made by the United Nations amid global lockdowns for the pandemic.

    Ultimately, local governments must also cope with projected budget constraints after the pandemic. Police expect to see increased domestic violence reports once orders are lifted as people have more space away from perpetrators and can seek help.

    “One of the questions for all of us as a community is how do we prioritize sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse in our new budgets,” said Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County board of supervisors, in the call. “That’s going to be important, because our budgets are a reflection absolutely of what we think are important.”


    10 a.m. April 28: San Jose Sharks establish relief fund for workers

    After the National Hockey league paused its season March 12 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the San Jose Sharks started a relief fund to help more than 1,800 part-time employees out of work because of event cancelations and closures.

    With the fund announced Monday, Sharks ownership, players, coaches, front office staff, corporate partners and supporters have already pledged more than $200,000, according to a team news release. Workers can apply and qualify for individual grants through an online registration process. The aid will go to staff at the SAP Center, Solar4America Ice rinks in San Jose and Fremont, and the Oakland Ice Center.

    “The effect that COVID-19 has had on the lives of these people is drastic and ongoing,” Sharks President Jonathan Becher said in a statement. “This is a wonderful way to say ‘thank you’ to these individuals who make our experiences truly memorable.”

    Public donations will be accepted through July 25. To make a donation, visit the Sharks relief fund website.

    In March, the Sharks Foundation partnered with SAP to donate $300,000 to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, the news release said. The Sharks organization also partnered with Aramark to provide more than 2,000 pounds of perishable food from the SAP Center to Martha’s Kitchen, a local nonprofit that serves meals to people in need.

    6:30 p.m. April 27: San Jose police identify man who allegedly vandalized Asian-owned businesses

    San Jose police identified a 42-year-old Milpitas man on Monday accused of vandalizing multiple Asian-owned businesses in the South Bay.

    San Jose police have identified Tai Van Trinh as a suspect in a string of vandalism targeting Asian-American businesses in the South Bay.

    Early Wednesday morning, Tai Van Trinh allegedly smashed glass windows and doors of at least five San Jose businesses and three Milpitas businesses, according to a police news release. He is suspected of then fleeing in a black 2004 Toyota Tacoma extended cab pickup truck with a Texas license plate, HZM3285. Police are now seeking the public’s help looking for him.

    Based on the preliminary investigation, police said they are not investigating the incidents as hate crimes.

    In an email, police Sgt. Enrique Garcia declined to share additional details on the ongoing investigation. The vandalism comes as local officials and law enforcement have decried hate crimes against Asians since the novel coronavirus outbreak, as San José Spotlight reported.

    Anyone with information on Trinh’s location is asked to call 911, 311, or contact San Jose police Detective Ryan Wagner of the Burglary Unit at 408-277-4401. To remain anonymous, call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line, 408-947-STOP and dial 7867, or click here. People providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect may be eligible for a cash reward from the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers, police said.

    4:15 p.m. April 27: Autopsy report of United States’ first death

    The 57-year-old woman identified as the United States’ first known death from the novel coronavirus on Feb. 6 died from a ruptured heart due to COVID-19, according to a Santa Clara County autopsy report published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

    A day after Patricia Cabello Dowd died in her home wearing a short-sleeved shirt and pajamas, county Medical Examiner Dr. Susan J. Parson examined her body and sent tissue samples for testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which later showed she had COVID-19. County officials received the results last Thursday and determined she died from complications due to the virus.

    Along with a reported history of “flu-like” symptoms in the days prior to her death, further testing revealed Dowd had the virus’ RNA in her heart, trachea, lung and intestines. The autopsy report noted that Dowd was healthy, outside of being “mildly obese,” and did not test positive for other substances, like alcohol or drugs. She also tested negative for influenza.

    A ruptured left ventricle in the heart — stemming from COVID-19 — proved to be her official cause of death, Parson found. In reviewing the autopsy report, Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist, told the Chronicle normal hearts don’t rupture.

    “This heart ruptured or tore open because of an infection of the heart muscle caused by the coronavirus,” Melinek reportedly said.

    Dowd’s husband, Dean, identified her the day she died, per the autopsy report.

    Previously, Santa Clara County officials believed the county’s earliest death in the region from COVID-19 was March 9. Until last week, federal officials thought the nation’s first coronavirus-related death was Feb. 29 in Washington state.

    2:30 p.m. April 27: CDC adds symptoms for COVID-19

    In addition to fever, cough and shortness of breath, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added six new symptoms for the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. New signs include chills, repeated shaking from chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. Symptoms may appear between two days and two weeks after exposure to the virus, according to federal guidance.

    If you have trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or ability to wake up, or bluish lips or face, the CDC says to seek medical attention immediately. For any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you, consult a medical provider. Call 911 if you have a medical emergency.

    1 p.m. April 27: California beach crowds ‘example of what not to see,’ Gov. Newsom says

    Crowds that gathered at Southern California beaches Saturday are an “example of what not to see” amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his briefing Monday.

    With a heat wave over the weekend, beachgoers amassed in Ventura and Orange counties, whereas larger San Diego and Los Angeles counties had closed coastal access under public health orders meant to reduce physical distancing and mass gatherings, as the Los Angeles Times documented.

    “Those images are an example of what not to see, people, what not to do,” Newsom said, “if we’re going to make the meaningful progress that we’ve made in the last few weeks extend into the next number of weeks.”

    For the most part, Newsom added, residents and local governments have complied with public health measures, including San Mateo County beaches. He said the state is just weeks away from making changes to the statewide stay at home order to begin reopening businesses and loosening restrictions, but residents must comply to continue reducing the spread of the virus.

    “The only thing that will set us back is our behavior,” Newsom said. “The only thing that will set us back is people stopping to practice physical distancing and appropriate social distancing. That’s the only thing that’s going to slow down our ability to reopen this economy — our ability to adapt and modify this stay at home order.”

    11:45 a.m. April 27: Bay Area to extend shelter in place through May

    San Francisco Bay Area health officials said in a joint statement Monday they will extend shelter in place orders amid the novel coronavirus pandemic through May.

    The order — which was originally made collectively by six Bay Area counties, including Santa Clara, and the city of Berkeley in March and revised April 1 — had been set to expire on May 3, and the new revised end date will be formally issued later this week, affecting approximately 7 million residents in the region.

    The new order will include limited easing of specific restrictions for a small number of “lower-risk activities,” officials said in a news release. Additionally, health officers plan to release a set of broad indicators used to track progress in preparedness and response for COVID-19, which better aligns with framework used by the state of California.

    “Future easing of restrictions requires that each jurisdiction and various sectors continue to rapidly build critical infrastructure and systems to respond to and control the spread of coronavirus infections and to ensure the health care system’s ability to meet demand,” Bay Area health officials said.

    Officials cautioned the pandemic is still in its early stages, adding testing is still limited and vaccine development is just beginning.

    “We expect to be responding to COVID-19 in our communities for a long time,” they said. “As effective as our efforts have been, if we move too fast to ease restrictions, the potential of exponential spread could have grave impacts to health and wellness of our residents as well as the economy.”

    Details on the next phase and the extended orders will be shared later this week, health officials said. Read San José Spotlight coverage on how local officials are responding to the new regional orders.

    11:25 a.m. April 27: County health worker details experience with COVID-19

    It only took Ricardo Romero-Morales, a Santa Clara County senior community health planner, minutes from when he left work with a mild cough at work on a Thursday morning in March to getting a fever, fatigue and dry cough — symptoms of COVID-19.

    “I never thought it was going to be me, that I was going to go through this myself,” Romero-Morales, 30, said during a county health briefing Monday.

    Until that March day, he felt healthy and followed his own public health department’s guidance, though he had been fatigued two days prior. But as symptoms worsened, Romero-Morales notified his roommates and called his doctor, who told him to isolate for two weeks. He made plans with those in his home to bring him food and regularly disinfect surfaces he touched. “I was supposed to be the one taking care of everybody, but it was me who got sick,” he added.

    By day five, each time he breathed deeply, he said, “it was almost like a stabbing type of pain.” So he drove himself to the hospital, where he passed out twice. Doctors, however, told him he had a mild case of COVID-19, especially compared to those who have died from it.

    In total, he spent more than three weeks isolated at home before reporting back to the county Emergency Operations Center as a spokesman amid the pandemic. At times Romero-Morales said he had negative thoughts while alone, but he reached out to others, even making new friends online. “I think it’s just remembering that,” he said, hesitating, “that we are in this together, even though we are apart.”

    5:30 p.m. April 24: Cupertino second in Santa Clara County to require face coverings

    Cupertino began requiring face coverings for people going out for essential activities Friday, the second city in Santa Clara County to do so. On Wednesday, Cupertino City Council voted 4-1 for the emergency order, which covers people working or getting essential goods, effective Friday at noon.

    “The wearing of face coverings outside our homes will become increasingly important to everyone’s health and safety as the economy is reopened and people begin to congregate again in public,” City Manager Deborah L. Feng said in a statement. “The use of face coverings, along with proper social distancing and other evidence-based health measures, has been shown to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

    Earlier on Tuesday, Milpitas became the first Santa Clara County city to require face coverings — applying to workers and customers at essential businesses — and began enforcement Friday morning. The county, meanwhile, has issued guidance “strongly urging” residents to wear face coverings, whereas six other Bay Area counties have already required face coverings in public.

    2:25 p.m. April 24: After Santa Clara County’s first death, California looks for earlier cases

    California Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell said state officials will work with local coroner’s offices to look for earlier COVID-19 cases, after Santa Clara County identified it had the United States’ first known death from the novel coronavirus.

    “As we move forward, we will continue to be very thoughtful about what could have happened in the past, and we’ll continue to work with our local coroners to under more about the progression of COVID-19 in our communities,” Angell said during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s press briefing Friday, responding to a question from NPR’s Leila Fadel.

    On Wednesday, the county Medical Examiner-Corner identified three new COVID-19 deaths dating back to Feb. 6, more than three weeks before officials thought the virus first killed someone in the U.S. County officials sent tissue samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirmed the people had the virus and likely contracted it locally.

    Consequently, state officials will match COVID-19 cases with coroner’s reports to ensure deceased are properly identified if they had the virus, Angell said.

    “And as that information is forthcoming, you’ll either report it directly or we’ll report it out appropriately,” Newsom told reporters.

    1:25 p.m. April 24: Gov. Newsom announces meal program for seniors

    Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced a partnership with FEMA to provide low-income seniors who are impacted by COVID-19 with meals, three times a day and stimulate the local restaurant industry.

    With more than 1.2 million elder Californians living alone and 5.7 million seniors in the state, Newsom said the program, which will operate 7 days a week, has no limit on the number of meals it can provide. To qualify for the program, Newsom said seniors must fall below 600% of the federal poverty guidelines, be exposed or at high risk of exposure to the virus or have a compromised immune system.

    “The need to be more aggressive, to be more focused, more supportive of our seniors, has been top of mind,” Newsom said. “And so (we are) working with FEMA on ways to provide nutritious meals to our seniors, to get them delivered, but also to get them prepared.”

    The first of its kind program will reopen local restaurants to provide these meals and source produce from local farms and suppliers. He hopes the program will stimulate the local economy by generating local sales taxes and bringing back jobs to some restaurant workers.

    “It’s not just about the meals, it’s about a human connection,” Newsom added. “It’s about someone just checking in as they’re delivering those meals and making sure people are okay.”

    FEMA and the state will reimburse local governments for the costs of the meals. Local governments will receive $66 a day per meal. Each breakfast meal costs $16, lunch meals cost $17 and dinner costs $28. Local governments will decide on which restaurants are eligible for the program.

    Seniors who believe they might be eligible can call 2-1-1 or visit the state’s website here. The program will go into effect immediately.

    11:35 a.m. April 24: San Jose libraries to donate PPE to Good Samaritan Hospital

    Using 24 3D printers, San Jose Public Library staff created 220 face shields and 75 masks to donate to Good Samaritan Hospital on Friday.

    Library staff worked with local hospitals to design suitable 3D-printed personal protective equipment for health care providers, settling on Prusa face shields and Montana filtration masks, Branch Manager Shauna Porteus said in a blog post Thursday.

    The face shield is created from transparency sheets, which are normally used for overhead projectors, and use hole punches to connect the front of the shield to the headband created by a 3D printer, Porteus described. Meanwhile, the printed face masks can be reused after replacing filters made of shop towels.

    In all, the shields and masks took library staff 518 hours to complete. Each shield costs an estimated 49 cents to make, while face masks go for about $1.50. Collectively, staff can make 200 shields and 80 masks weekly, Porteus said.

    At 2:30 p.m. Friday, Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Pam Foley are scheduled to join library staff to donate the PPE to San Jose’s Good Samaritan.

    11:20 a.m. April 24: Hard-hit long-term care facilities receiving additional support

    Long-term care facilities in Santa Clara County are receiving additional guidance in infection control and prevention as facility residents and staff have accounted for close to a third of county deaths from the novel coronavirus.

    As of Tuesday, there have been 357 confirmed cases and 31 deaths at facilities across the county. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the U.S. have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

    Facilities, which are run independently and licensed through the state, include skilled nursing, independent and assisted living. They tend to serve elderly residents, often with chronic medical conditions, who are at greater risk of serious illness or death from the virus.

    “We’re very aware that it’s almost impossible that cases would not have appeared in the facilities,” said Elsa Villarino, an assistant public health officer for the county, in a briefing Friday. “But we also know that with good infection control practices, we can minimize the spread of further transmission and the impact into these communities.”

    County health officials have taken a number of steps to reduce COVID-19’s spread in facilities, including supplying personal protective equipment and even supplementing county nurses and other employees when facilities have staff shortages, according to Villarino. Facilities also also get prioritizing testing for residents and staff, and health officials conduct contact tracing with confirmed cases to investigate who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

    10:35 a.m. April 24: San José Spotlight to host live Q&A with Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody

    Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody will join a live question and answer webinar about the novel coronavirus with San José Spotlight at 4 p.m. Friday.

    The interactive event allows residents to submit questions to the county’s top public health official, who helped coordinate some of the nation’s earliest COVID-19 response measures, such as the Bay Area’s shelter in place order. Cody also recently announced the nation’s earliest known death from the virus in Santa Clara County, on Feb. 6, more than three weeks before U.S. officials previously thought.

    On Thursday, Cody appeared on the national television network MSNBC with host Rachel Maddow to discuss measures taken locally that appear to have reduced the spread of COVID-19.

    “Sara Cody — in Santa Clara County, California — would go on to become the public health official in America who may have saved more lives than any other person in our country,” Maddow said.

    RSVP to San José Spotlight’s event here and send questions to [email protected].

    2 p.m. April 23: Milpitas to require face coverings Friday

    Milpitas became the first Santa Clara County city to require face coverings. The new order takes effect Friday.

    On Tuesday, Milpitas City Council unanimously directed city staff to issue a regulation requiring masks at essential businesses such as grocery stores, health care facilities, gas stations, hardware stores and pharmacies, officials said in a news release. However, children 6 years and younger do not have to wear face coverings, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against masks on children under 2.

    While the county doesn’t require them, health officials issued guidance last Friday “strongly urging” residents to wear them in public. Milpitas’ actions come as six other Bay Area counties now require residents to wear face coverings in public, KRON reported.

    “By enacting this order, Milpitas is being a leader in our county. Face coverings help protect the most vulnerable in our community,” Councilmember Carmen Montano said in a statement. “We want to flatten the curve and keep our health system from being overwhelmed, and this is the best, safest way to do that.”

    With the order, city officials said they will first promote education, but they will issue citations for people who don’t comply with wearing face coverings. Read San José Spotlight’s story on how to make your own face covering.

    1:30 p.m. April 23: 22,000 Californians sign up to volunteer in first day

    In the first day of launching a website for Californians to volunteer to help others amid the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday 22,000 people signed on to help others in need.

    Since announcing the Californians for All volunteer website Tuesday, Newsom said the first cohort is doing phone calls to neighbors struggling with social isolation. Others are volunteering with food deliveries.

    “Whether it’s volunteering at a food bank to feed older Californians, blood drives or supporting local nonprofits, there’s no shortage of opportunities for Californians to step up and meet the moment,” Newsom had said in a statement Tuesday.

    To volunteer, visit the Californians for All website.

    1 p.m. April 23: California sees ‘deadliest day,’ Gov. Newsom says

    California saw 115 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the state’s largest increase to date, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday. The death toll in the state rose 8.5%, while people who tested positive for the virus increased 5.6%.

    “Yesterday was the deadliest day for this virus in this state,” he said in a daily briefing. “One hundred and fifteen human beings lost their lives, families torn apart.”

    Still, the governor said the state saw continued decreases in hospitalization and intensive care cases, including for patients under investigation for COVID-19, all positive indicators in the pandemic response. However, given the new cases and deaths, Newsom cautioned people to continue practicing public health measures such as staying at home, wearing face coverings and physical distancing.

    In Santa Clara County Thursday, though, health officials reported one new death and an additional 28 cases — far fewer increases compared to previous days.

    The state’s 115 new deaths, Newsom added, are “a reminder we’re not out of the woods yet.”

    12:40 p.m. April 23: California debt relief for student loans, garnished federal checks

    Gov. Gavin Newsom announced two debt relief measures in California for student loans and federal coronavirus relief paychecks that have been garnished by collectors.

    Twenty-one of the state’s 24 largest student loan service providers have agreed to a 90-day forbearance on student loan debt, which affects more than 1.1 million Californians, Newsom said Thursday. In partnership with other states led by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in reaching the agreement, Newsom added the student loan relief doesn’t impact credit ratings, nor does it impose fines or fees. The relief also outlines new payment plans for student loan debt.

    In addition, Newsom signed an executive order denying debt collectors from garnishing Congress’ coronavirus relief bill that distributed one-time $1,200 checks, unless people owe child or spousal support, or have monetary responsibility to victims or victims accounts. The order also works retroactively, so collectors who garnished checks must repay people.

    “Now is not the time to garnish those emergency contribution checks,” the governor said.

    11:15 a.m. April 23: Report: Stanford turns down coronavirus relief funding

    Stanford University reportedly rescinded its application for $7.38 million as part of Congress’ $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. This comes as well-endowed private colleges and universities have drawn criticism for planning to take federal aid amid the pandemic.

    On Wednesday, the Mercury News reported Stanford, with a $27.7 billion endowment, declined federal aid set to be distributed by the Department of Education. The university said it has taken a significant financial hit, but other smaller schools are in greater need.

    Santa Clara University will take its $3.54 million, according to the Mercury, after the private university’s $1 billion endowment has shrunk since June. With half of the federal dollars required to go directly to students, the university said it would direct half of aid for student grants. University of San Francisco also indicated it would accept at least half of its allocated $7.29 million for students, while Mills College and Saint Mary’s College were listed for funding.

    In a tweet, Harvard University said it wouldn’t accept its $8.66 million because it didn’t request congressional funds and aid should go to struggling institutions. This came a day after President Donald Trump said Harvard shouldn’t take aid, incorrectly adding the university took it from small businesses, which comes from a different part of congressional relief, CNN found.

    Education Secretary Betsy Devos said in a statement Wednesday Congress was legally required to distribute funds to all colleges and universities. But she called on institutions that don’t serve primarily low-income students to reject aid.

    Local public universities and community colleges have also been allocated coronavirus relief, such as San Jose State’s $28.78 million and De Anza Community College’s $7.24 million.

    Catch up on our past coronavirus coverage:

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